SOUTH SYDNEY are set to field an inexperienced left centre-wing combination in Saturday night's elimination final against Canberra, with Nathan Merritt tipped to join Matt King on the sideline.
Merritt had his right arm in a sling when the Rabbitohs returned to Sydney yesterday following their 24-6 loss to Melbourne, and is in severe doubt due to an AC injury.
Interchange forward Jason Clark, who failed to return after half-time, was also on crutches at Sydney Airport, while King suffered a broken wrist.
Rabbitohs coach Michael Maguire was so concerned about the injury toll he ordered Shaune Corrigan, Justin Hunt, Ben Lowe and Dave Tyrrell out of the North Sydney team playing in yesterday's NSW Cup finals clash.
Hunt and Tyrrell had travelled to Melbourne with the NRL side on Friday but flew back to Sydney after the team's warm-up in order to play for against Newcastle at Jubilee Oval.
However, the Herald was told that Maguire made the decision after Saturday night's match to pull the quartet out of the match to avoid the risk of further injuries.
Corrigan is expected to replace King at left centre, while Hunt would come into the side for Merritt, and either Lowe or Tyrrell will take the place of Clark, if he is out.
Souths high-performance manager Troy Thompson said no decision would be made on the injured trio until they receive the results of scans and X-rays but King is resigned to the fact his season is over.
''Kingy is the biggest concern. We will just have to wait and see what the X-rays show,'' Thompson said. ''Clarkey just rolled an ankle, and Merro has just got a bit of a sore shoulder - they will get scans today and we should know tomorrow.''
Merritt, who is due to play his 200th NRL match, against the Raiders, injured himself making a shoulder charge on Melbourne fullback Billy Slater but managed to finish the game.
However, King was unable to do so, and came to the sideline midway through the second half, leaving the Rabbitohs momentarily with 12 men on the field until prop Roy Asotasi went on.
''It's sad for Matt, obviously. He's put a lot of effort in all year,'' front-rower Sam Burgess said.
The England star admitted the Rabbitohs had been ''caught up in the emotion'' of the club's first finals match since 2007 but he was confident they would perform better against the Raiders.
''We were not overawed whatsoever, we respected Melbourne but we probably just got caught up in the emotion of the game more than they did,'' Burgess said. ''We have got a lot of boys who have played a lot of football, and if we had played to our potential there is no reason we could not have got the win.
''But we just underperformed last night, and on the big stage we just weren't good enough.''
After travelling to Melbourne to play the Storm, the remainder of Souths' finals matches will now be at their home ground as the winner of Saturday's match meets Canterbury there and the grand final is also at ANZ Stadium.
''We just have to go back to the drawing board tomorrow and focus on what we didn't do right last night,'' Asotasi said.